Recycling Research Proposal Essay

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Economical and Ethical Issues in Recycling

Economic Issues

There is a general agreement that the U.S. should be undertaking more recycling, with only 34.3% of current waste recycled. The rate is increasing, and while there have been legislative moves, it may be argued that the ethical awareness and economic factors have had a greater impact. The research proposal argues that the dualistic approach to recycling seen in the anthropocentric model can be used to show how and why the take up has been restrained, as there is a need for economic motivations to support the practice. These are now occurring, but there is still room for improvement. By undertaking quantitative research with businesses and consumers the paper proposes the gathering of information that can be statistically analysed to identify the most efficient policy approaches to improve recycling.


The level of waste generated in increasing; it is estimated that in the U.S. approximately 254.1 million tonnes of waste were generated in 2013 (Statista, 2016b). It is estimated that this equates to 4.3 pounds of waste every day for each person (Duke University, 2016). The impact of this waste is tremendous, in 2008 it waste estimated that methane generated from municipal landfill sites accounted for 22% of the countries methane emissions (Duke University, 2016). However, while it is a problem, it has not gone unrecognised; there has been increasing emphasis placed on a on the value and importance of recycling (Gandy, 2014). The increased awareness and change has been supported by increasing levels of legislation and regulation mandating waste reduction and recycling measures (Ackerman, 2013). However, while these measures are having an impact, it has been the ethical and economic issues which have the greatest impact. In recent years the level of recycling has increased; in 1960 only 6.4% of municipal waste was recycled, this rose to 16% in 1990, 28.5% in 2000 and 34.3% in 2013 (Statista, 2016a). A key aspect of recycling is the way in which consumers sort and provide waste in a manner which may be recycled, and the recycling facilities and services which are commercially available (Sarmaniotis & Tilikidou, 2000).

This paper looks at the issues which are impacting on the practice of recycling, looking at the ethical and economic impacts, to assess which are most likely to have an influence on the way recycling takes place, which may also indicate the areas of policy and practice which may be targeted if recycling measures are to be encouraged further.
The main aims of this research will include;

• Defining what is meant by recycling

• Assessing the influence that ethical consideration have on recycling from both the consumer perspective and the recycling industry perspective.

• Assessing the influence that economic consideration have on recycling from both the consumer perspective and the recycling industry perspective.

The scope and scale of the research will be limited by both time and budget constraints, with the research focusing only on the U.S. due these limitations.

This proposal presents a literature review, looking at the relevant issues associated with the study, and then a methodology which may be used to assess the ethical and economic issues.

3. Literature Review

3.1 Defining Recycling

The concept of recycling may appear simple; waste products are recovered and then reused in some way, which may require processing (Gandy, 2014). The Environmental Protection Act defines, as well as reclamation and reuse as a "method, technique or process designed to remove any contaminant from waste so as to render such waste reusable, or any process by which materials that would otherwise be disposed of or discarded are collected, separated or processed and returned to the economic mainstream in the form of raw materials or products" (EPA, 2013, p. 1). The Solid Waste Management Act defines recycling as "The process by which solid waste is collected, separated and processed for reuse as either a raw material or a product which itself is subject to recycling." Notability, this latter definition clearly excludes the use of waste as a combustible fuel.

Recycling may also be divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary recycling (Recycling Consortium, 2016). Occurs where the object being recycled does not change in any way, this is often seen where something is use of second-hand, referred to as second-hand use (Recycling Consortium, 2016). Secondary recycling with some type of modification to the product, without the presence of any chemical processes, for example cutting up an egg box to use it as a seed tray (Recycling Consortium, 2016). Tertiary recycling is where the products being recycling need to be reprocessed either through heat or a chemical process, such as melting….....

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Ackerman, F. (2013). Why Do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy. Washington DC: Island Press.

Bryman, A., & Bell, E. (2011). Business Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cresswell, J. W. (2013). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Duke University. (2016). How much do we waste daily? Retrieved from

Eckersley, R. (1992). Environmentalism and political theory. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Elliott, B., & Elliott, J. (2013). Financial Accounting and Reporting. London: Pearson.

EPA. (2013). Defining and Measuring Solid Waste Recycling and Disposal (No. Publication No. 905Q13001). Retrieved from

Gandy, M. (2014). Recycling and the Politics of Urban Waste. Abingdon: Routledge.

Purser, R., Park, C., & Montuori, A. (1995). Limits to anthropocentrism; toward an ecocentric organization paradigm. Academy of Management Review, 20(4), 1053 -- 1090.

Recycling Consortium. (2016). Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Recycling Explained. Retrieved from

Sarmaniotis, C., & Tilikidou, I. (2000). Consumer Attitudes towards Recycling: Construction of a Reliable and Valid Multi-item Measure. MEDIT, 2(1), 48 -- 51.

Statista. (2016a). Percentage of U.S. municipal solid waste recovered for recycling from 1960 to 2013. Retrieved from

Statista. (2016b). U.S. municipal solid waste generation from 1960 to 2013. Retrieved from

United Nations. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Retrieved from

Wastewise. (2015). The Economic Benefits of Recycling and Waste Reduction -- Wastewise Case Studies from the Private and Public Sectors. Retrieved from

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